In America, money is complicated. There are many financial traps to fall into and lots of stuff that, well, it's just not very straightforward! That's why we launched a finance & business training component for the students in our Advanced Sewing class. We're holding these special sessions one Friday night each month and plan to cover budgets, debt, business accounting, etc.
For this first class, we started with discussing banks. Why this subject? Well, it all started with a conversation I had with one of the artisans who works with Journey Home. I had written her several checks for products I bought from her, and noticed none of them had been cashed. When I inquired about it, she told me that it's very hard for her to cash or deposit a check. As I talked to more of my refugee friends, this was a common refrain. The banks my friends had tried to use charged monthly fees or required minimum balances that just weren't financially viable for these ladies.
Another issue they faced was lack of transportation and language barriers. Even if they had a bank account - which several had given up on - how were they supposed to get there? And once there, trying to communicate with a bank teller was intimidating.
As I planned for this first class, I tried to locate banks that were geographically close, provided mobile banking options AND didn't charge monthly fees or a high minimum balance. You know how many I located? Three. All the other banks I looked at didn't provide any feasible banking options for those with very limited money.
During class, we handed maps out (thanks, Google!) with the locations of these three banks marked. We then compared each bank and contrasted their services.
We also started a Bible study on what God says about money, based off Crown Financial's excellent financial study curriculum. We talked about being faithful stewards of the gifts God gives us, whether that is money, time or relationships.
But this class wasn't all about money, overdraft charges and checking accounts! There was also plenty of sewing, conversation and laughter as the ladies began working on large tote bags to hold items needed for home production. We're thankful for the volunteers that cared for the little ones so their moms could attend class, and thanful for St. John's United Methodist's generosity in letting us use their building to hold these special classes.